All eyes on Bok top job

While there will again be pressure on the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to re-evaluate the implementation of a quota system, the national governing body’s mission to appoint a Springbok coach is set to take centre stage as the year winds to a close.

Incumbent coach Peter de Villiers’ contract runs out at the end of December and should he not get the blessing of Saru’s key decision-makers to stay on, negotiations with other candidates will have to be concluded before the end of the year.

In moving away from previous protocol, a decision was made not to open the position for public application.

The man to lead South Africa’s national team would instead be identified and approached by the relevant stakeholders.

When Saru announced their new strategy to fill the head coach’s position, it was also revealed that keeping de Villiers at the helm remained one of their options.

The reason for this, though, could stem from the knowledge that several of the most sought after candidates for the job have indicated they are not available for the position.

Top of the list is the Blue Bulls’ executive of rugby, Heyneke Meyer, who returned to South African shores after an overseas stint with English club Leicester.

Meyer’s proven track record with the Pretoria-based franchise separates him from all other candidates.

His reluctance to avail himself for the position is routed in the political interference four years ago that saw de Villiers pip him to the post, taking over from Jake White who had just won the World Cup.

There were signs, however, that the winds of change were blowing over rugby’s governing body where issues surfaced at executive level when Jurie Roux was appointed CEO in 2010.

Prime candidate
Roux played a leading role in the unification of the two separately run organisations — Saru and South African Rugby — and also initiated the appointment of a high performance manager.

That position is currently vacant and there has been speculation that Western Province director of coaching, Rassie Erasmus, is the prime candidate to step into that role.

Erasmus, regarded as one of the best technical analysts in the country, has nonetheless confirmed that his alliance lies with his province.

This again indicated the reluctance of South Africa’s top coaches to step up to the top job.

Another candidate tipped to take over from de Villiers is Province head coach Allister Coetzee but he too is still under contract with his provincial union.

Coetzee formed part of the coaching staff when the Boks won the 2007 World Cup and despite Province not showing any silverware for their efforts, his hit rate in reaching the business end of competitions has been exemplary.

If he left, however, Province would be concerned as to how they would continue to set the pace without Coetzee in charge.

On that front, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke could be the ideal candidate to lead the Springboks into a new era.

Should Ludeke be taken away from the team he recently led to two Super Rugby titles, they would still have Meyer to ensure the vacuum left by their recent departure of star players was filled.

These issues will take centre stage at Saru’s executive general council meeting, scheduled for December 1 and 2, where the next steps will be taken in their search for a new Bok coach.

The position is expected to be filled as early as January — provided they can find a suitable candidate willing to take the job. – Sapa

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